It’s almost bedtime. Christian is working late and I am busy herding the boys up the stairs and into the bathroom. It is later than I want it to be and I am growing impatient and exhausted in equal measure.

The boys are spinning with frenzied energy, circling around each other and into each other, shouting at the injustice of yet another violation of someone’s personal “bubble”. I am fairly certain I have instructed them to start brushing their teeth three times, maybe four. The shrieks coming from my four-year old are more than I can take. As normal, end of the day fatigue sets in, my tolerance for chaos and noise is minimal.

My mind searches for a quick way to end this sensory assault. Desperate, I appeal to a higher power.

“You know, SANTA is watching! ALL. THE. TIME!”

My body tenses. The second the words leave my mouth I regret it. I can’t believe I have resorted to this. So much for encouraging self-regulation and intrinsic motivation. My parental values have flown out the window. The switch has flipped and there is no going back. My crazed mind doesn’t even see this as an option.

I tear off on a tangent about good and bad behavior, Santa’s list and his helper elves.

For an instant, it is quiet. The boys are deep in thought- or so I think. Just as I convince myself they are silently reflecting on their poor behavior over the past few days, hours, minutes- something, Owen looks at me with a fiery self-possession and says, “Well YOU are definitely on Santa’s naughty list mom because you have been yelling a lot lately.”

Wow. Well played, my little friend, well-played. 

And then, one thought, one word flooded my brain- mirrors. Our children are perfect mirrors of ourselves.

My short fuse equals their short fuse.

My poor behavior equals their poor behavior.

My shaming equals their shaming.

My judgement equals their judgement.

This was one of those moments where I knew the truth of this ostensibly and not as something I had simply read in a book. It’s like that Confucius quote: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

Ooh, Did I ever understand now. 

So I regrouped and resigned to get back on track, to model the type of behavior I wanted to see reflected back- essentially, to practice what I already knew, had forgotten, and now truly understood. I had each new moment to turn these equations into positive ones and perhaps, appeal to a different higher power. Miraculously, we all have this.

“The most powerful teaching moments are the ones where you screw up.” -Brene Brown